Friday, January 5, 2018

What is wrong with the Intel processors!


Intel is facing a difficult start of the new year. In the last weeks of 2017 there were reports of security issues with the processor line of the last 10 years. This effects almost everyone who is working or living behind a computer screen.

Jan Guldentops is a security expert and CEO of Better Access in Belgium, he can explain that we are not only talking about Intel processors.

A eeNews report - see the full interview on the eeNews YouTube Channel

What is the problem with the Intel processors?
’It is a security issue. In general when we want to create security we make zones or sand boxes . Zones for countries, people, processes, users, as long everyone stays within the right zone we manage the security. With computers and processors it is basically the same. If one processor can read the memory of another processor we have a breach of security. If you have an active file in your browser and that file can access information in another ‘sand box’ you are vulnerable.’

This is not a new problem? The architecture flaw goes back ten years?
‘That is true and the problem is fundamental. The exploits we are talking about ‘meltdown’ and ‘spectre’ can also effect other processors like AMD and ARM - they all use the 'shared memory' model.
That means a lot of products and applications will face the same security issue.

'But not only your personal equipment, it also effects virtualization and cloud applications. With a cloud applications you are running your applications on someone else hardware or server. That server has the same problem.'

What are the consequences?
‘The reason to use 'shared memory' models is performance. Every time the processor needs to access the memory it will take time and by using shared memory you can speed up the processes. But now it shows there is also a back-side to this technology. To solve the issue we provide patches and by doing this we slow down the performance of a system. Depending on the way you measure this and who you believe, the performance can slow down from five to thirty percent. You don’t want that as a user!

Why is this now in the news?
‘One of the reasons in my opinion is that the CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich, while knowing about the bug, sold his sellable part of his shares. That is the reason why it is picked up in the general news and it became so big! He should go in jail for that, it’s criminal.’

You say it can be solved but it will cost you something.
‘All the big players now are updating and patching their clouds and operating systems, Microsoft, Amazon and Google. The Google cloud team played a big role in the discovery of this vulnerability. We think this is a big issue, but it will be solved and new security problems will come, it is a ongoing battle.’

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